CFD: The easy way to spot improvement opportunities in your datacentre

CFD: The easy way to spot improvement opportunities in your datacentre


In the quest for lower operating costs, improved efficiency and zero downtime, more and more datacentre managers are using advanced modelling software to redesign their room layouts and specify new solutions.

Taking advantage of the latest computational fluid dynamics (CFD) science means you can:

  • Identify where energy is being wasted in power and cooling
  • Predict the impact of any future changes to the datacentre environment
  • Get great results without the risk of leaping into the unknown.

Setting up a CFD datacentre assessment

Best practice is to regularly audit the performance of your datacentre.  CFD needs to play a part in that process or you could delay or miss out on some significant money saving and resilience-boosting opportunities.  If you’re looking to benchmark your datacentre for the first time, a CFD analysis can not only appraise your current situation, but also illustrate the benefits you’ll receive from recalibrating your environment.

These benefits include:

  • Increasing energy efficiency
  • Improving datacentre PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness)
  • Saving money on energy bills and equipment
  • Reducing fire risk
  • Avoiding expensive equipment failure.

Visualising heatmaps and airflows

So what exactly is Computational Fluid Dynamics and how does it work?

CFD effectively charts the cooling in a room and shows the airflow (air path, velocity etc.) and temperature (hot areas, cold areas), and how these are impacted by environmental changes.  This helps datacentre managers visualise the extent to which their cooling systems are being used to their optimal performance.

Some of the common applications for CFD are:

  • Determining what will happen when higher density servers are introduced, and designing ways of managing that change.
  • Eliminating ‘hotspots’ that pose a danger to the longevity of IT equipment, or risk exceeding its thermal cut-off limit (where equipment shuts down in order to protect itself).
  • Working out how PUE can be reduced, whether through inexpensive ‘tweaks’ or by larger structural or management changes, and providing hard evidence for those investment decisions.
  • Gaining an all-important extra layer of insight into datacentre performance that conventional monitoring tools are unable to provide.

Comtec uses some of the most intelligent software capabilities available, and has the ability to monitor and report on “real time” readings to ensure greater accuracy.  There are other, more general CFD tools available in the market but the best approach is to use one that is explicitly designed for datacentre environments only (unless you have an aircraft engine you want to analyse as well!).

Our consultancy offering regularly uses these tools to support clients who either wish to implement change, or want to examine what the effect of that change will be.

A recent example of this was for a major global research and publishing company and its two core datacentres based in the UK.  You can read the full case study here.  CFD was used as part of a multifaceted project to successfully reduce its PUE ratio from 2.9 to 1.6, cut operating costs by 40% and slice its carbon footprint almost in half.

But the biggest value the customer got from CFD was the ability to show-and-tell the science behind the project – and the evidence for its success – among key internal stakeholders.  This has led them to better understand the contribution its datacentres now make toward the firm’s corporate sustainability commitments.

There are plenty more examples, so please contact me  if you’d like to learn more about how Comtec provides CFD capabilities and the benefits it can deliver to your business.